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RIZ AHMED: THE NEW LEADING MAN
After his harrowing turn as a murder suspect on HBO's The Night Of, Ahmed, 33, is blasting off as a rebel pilot in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. "The thing that really keeps me up at night is 'What was the quality of the work I just did?' more than 'Where am I in the industry?' " he says. Raised in London by Pakistani-immigrant parents, Ahmed moonlights as rapper Riz MC. "I try and find gaps whenever I can to go and do music," he says. "I think there's definitely room for merging art forms."
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RUTH NEGGA: THE OSCAR CONTENDER
A veteran of TV shows such as AMC's Preacher, Negga is earning Oscar buzz for her role in the film Loving — and the Ethiopian-born star, 34, says she'd rather revel in the moment than focus on what's next. "The god of acting laughs in the face of plans," she says. "I just want to continue working with like-minded people."
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MANNY MUA: THE ULTIMATE INFLUENCER
Not long ago, Manny Gutierrez was a college student with a love of mascara and a dream. Thanks to YouTube, the 25-year-old San Diegan, who goes by Manny MUA (short for "makeup artist") online, is the star of beauty tutorials with more than 72 million views. (He was the first male to appear on Maybelline New York's Instagram, and the brand, the exclusive beauty sponsor of Ones to Watch, nominated him for inclusion.) "You can express yourself any way that you want," he says. "Even if you're a man."
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AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON: THE DASHING BRIT
"I just didn't want to let him down," says Johnson, 26, of collaborating with Tom Ford, the director of their critically acclaimed film Nocturnal Animals. And while the British actor is passionate about his career, family comes first. "I'm not someone who's famous to them," he says of his two daughters and two stepdaughters. "I'm just their dad."
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KATY MIXON: THE SITCOM SENSATION
Starring on ABC's American Housewife isn't going to the Pensacola, Florida, native's head. "I come from the theater world, where we approach everything like a team," says the former Mike & Molly actress, 35. "No egos here!"
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JAKE LACY: THE GOOD GUY
On shows like The Office and Girls, the Vermont-raised Lacy, 30, has played a quintessential nice guy: "a good boyfriend, a solid guy whether or not he's the brightest bulb," he says. In the political thriller Miss Sloane, he puts a twist on the type: His character "marches to the beat of his own drum," he says.
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DAYA: THE POP STAR
After her first hit, "Hide Away," took off, Daya (born Grace Martine Tandon) went from her Pittsburgh high school to performing at the White House and singing the hook on the Chainsmokers' smash "Don't Let Me Down." "It's like a dream," says the Sit Still, Look Pretty singer, 17. "I feel like I'm gonna wake up tomorrow!"
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TREVANTE RHODES: THE DISCOVERY
Spotted by a casting director while jogging at the University of Texas, the former track star, 26, excels as a gay man grappling with his sexuality in Moonlight. "I was born loving women, but I easily could've been born loving men," he says. "If we can fathom stripping away sexual orientation, skin color, sex, we're all the exact same: We just want connection. We just want love."
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CHRISSY METZ: THE GIRL NEXT DOOR
Metz is relishing her relatable role on TV's new hit family drama This Is Us, even if it makes her (and us) cry. "She's an open book, is very sensitive, and people want that for themselves," Metz, 36, tells PEOPLE of playing insecure Kate. "We're all vulnerable even if our egos don't allow us to be."
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JIMMI SIMPSON: THE ACTOR'S ACTOR
The New Jersey native is a TV vet, playing an array of quirky characters — like a creepy hacker in House of Cards. Now he's landed a leading role in HBO's Westworld. "I was very content being this weird little character actor," says Simpson, 40. "It's a new experience I didn't expect, and it sure is great."
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